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Hop to It! There’s Still Time to Bake Homemade Christmas Cookies: Why Not Start a Family Tradition?

December 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Food & Recipes

Homemade Chrismas Cookies: Now That's Tradition!

Gosh, suddenly it’s really looking like Christmas around here! How about at your place?

Here in Northwestern Illinois, we got at least seven inches of snow on Thursday, and then a few more on Saturday. Today, it is sunny and probably four degrees below zero – Fahrenheit – even before you take into account the blowing and drifting snow.

As far as I’m concerned, a day like today is just perfect. It’s the kind of day where you want to stay home, enjoy a fire in the fireplace if you’ve got one, crank up the Christmas carols on your stereo or iPod, and bake up some fabulous homemade Christmas cookies! You know, it’s a day to say: “Let it snow, I’m baking cookies!”

  • If you’ve got kids or grandkids handy, be sure to get them involved in this cookie-baking action.
  • Family cookie-baking is the stuff memories are made of. In fact, my late brother-in-law once declared that Christmas wasn’t worth coming home for unless there were homemade Christmas cookies! He personally preferred the cut out kind…
  • To this day, my adult kids still try to get to their grandma’s house a few days before Christmas, just so they can participate in making the traditional holiday cookies!

Holiday cookie making is a great opportunity for family bonding and  – sort of like giving kids a big box to play with – it won’t cost you much to make these wonderful memories, so it’s a perfect holiday-based family activity.

Here Are a Few Family-Friendly Holiday Cookie Favorites:

These quick and easy favorites are also guaranteed to make your holiday cookie tray a star!

  • The Pepperkaker cut-out cookies are a recipe from my Norwegian step-mother. They’re light and spicy – and just scream “Christmas!” to me
  • The Mint Meltaways are another one of my childhood favorites: a cookie my mother used to make, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. They’re a bit like Mexican Wedding Cakes, except that they’re drop cookies, not formed – and of course, they’re green and mint flavored! My sister and I have also taken this recipe and modified it over the years, trying different flavors. The recipe is pretty easy, so doubtless you can make modifications to the flavors, too!
  • The Chocolate Chewies are something my kids learned how to make with their grandfather, many years ago. These days, just making themhelps keep his memory alive

Pepperkaker

These spicy Norwegian Christmas cookies don’t need icing. Thin and crisp, they’re a great project for kids – even younger ones – if you make the dough in advance. Let them have fun cutting them out, placing them on the cookie sheet, and watching the timer ’til they’re done!

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup water
7/8 cup butter
1 tablespoon orange zest — grated
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking soda

METHOD:

Boil sugar, syrup, and water in a small saucepan. Put the butter and spices in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the hot sugar mixture. Stir until butter has melted. Cool.

Stir together baking soda and flour.

Mix all ingredients toether to make a smooth dough. Cover and let stand overnight.

Roll out one portion of the dough at a time, with a light touch. Cut out shapes from the dough with cookie cutters.

Place the cookies on cold, greased cookie sheets. Bake the cookies at 400F for 5-8 minutes in the center of the oven. Check often, as they burn easily.


Mint Meltaways

Yes, that’s almost a tablespoon of peppermint extract in these cookies. You can cut it down if that seems excessive. Use the cake flour and butter. I’ve tried “cheaping out” with margarine and regular flour, but the cookies just aren’t the same… Hey, it’s Christmas!

INGREDIENTS:

2-1/2 C. butter
1-1/4 C. sifted confectioners’ sugar
2-1/2 t. pure peppermint extract
4-6 drops green food coloring
1/4 t. salt
5-1/2 – 5-3/4 C. cake flour

Additional confectioners’ sugar to roll finished the cookies in.

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring the butter to room temperature and cream it in your mixer.  Beat in the powdered sugar, peppermint extract and green food coloring and salt.

Slowly and carefully beat in the cake flour, mix until completely blended.

Drop teaspoons of the cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, keeping about 2-inches between cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in your preheated oven, until the cookies are set and just slightly brown.

Remove from pan to cool on wire racks. When cookies are cool, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.


Chocolate Chewies

Are these cookies or candy? I’m not sure, but you’re guaranteed that they’re easy to make and irresistable! Don’t let the sugar and corn syrup continue to boil once they start, or the cookies will turn into rocks, instead of chewy treats…

INGREDIENTS:

6 C. corn flake cereal
1 C. granulated sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 C. Karo syrup
1-1/2 C. smooth peanut butter
6 oz. chocolate chips

butter to grease the pan and your hands

13 x 9 pan

METHOD:

Measure the corn flakes into a large bowl and set aside. Grease your pan with butter.

Put the sugar, salt and corn syrup into a saucepan and bring it just to a boil, stirring constantly. Make sure all sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, and add in the peanut butter. Stir well to incorporate.

Pour the hot syrup over the corn flakes and stir quickly, to incorporate all the flakes before the syrup cools too much.  Pour the flake mixture into the pan and use your buttered hands to spread it around evenly to the edges.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and pour over the top of the cereal mixture. Spread completely over the top, with a spatula.

Allow the chewies to cool and cut into small squares.


More Christmas Cookies

Well there you have it: a trio of fairly easy Christmas cookie recipes you can make with your children or grandchildren. If you’re looking for more fun, more challenge and more adventure, you might try setting aside a while day for Christmas cookie baking, as my Norwegian step-mother does.

Rosette CookiesAccording to her, it’s a Norwegian tradition for housewives to bake seven kinds of Christmas cookies. For years we’ve gotten a group of bakers together for a day in early December, where we continue this tradition. Among the Norwegian cookies we bake and share, are:

  • Goro
  • Sandbakkels
  • Fattigmann
  • Krumkake
  • Pepperkaker
  • Rosettes
  • The seventh cookie is called Drumar, though I suspect that’s not the right spelling. Anyway, they’re little bites of shortbread heaven. I haven’t been able to find a recipe for those, but they are very like these Danish shortbread cookies, called Pebber Nodder.

So there you have it! A list of fabulous Scandianvian Christmas cookies for your cookie making pleasure!


If you’d like to become more familiar with the traditional Christmas Cookies of other countries, one of your best bets is to start collecting Christmas cookie cookbooks, such as Rose Levy Beranbaum’s fantastic book, Rose’s Christmas Cookies.

Beranbaum provides a comprehensive selection of 60 cookie recipes for eating and decoration, for keeping and giving, that is probably the last word on the subject. The author of the award-winning The Cake Bible, Beranbaum has applied her passion for precise, foolproof recipes to the delectable business of cookie making.

Especially useful is the fact that she includes:

  • Full-page color photos of every cookie, and more than 50 line drawings of techniques and templates, making the book both easy to use and a delight to the eye.
  • Chapters devoted to tree and mantelpiece cookies; cookies to make for and/or with kids; cookies for sending, for open house, and holiday dinner parties, among others.

Among the Recipes Covered Are Classics Like:

  • Scottish Shortbread
  • Chocolate-Dipped Melting Moments
  • Mexican Wedding Cakes
  • Spritz Butter Cookies
  • Springerle
  • Pfeffernüsse

Also offered are Beranbaum’s own creations, such as Maple Walnut Sablé Sandwiches, and those of her friends, like Lora Brody’s Christmas Phantoms and Mrs. King’s Irresistibles.

Where applicable, recipes offer optional mixing methods for food processor or electric mixer (or by hand). Beranbaum’s “Smart Cookie” accompanies each recipe and provides hints on ingredients and techniques.

Better yet, the book is packed with information for decoration, storage, and cookie-sending.  And there’s a color-photo-illustrated glossary of ingredients and equipment, the book is encyclopedic on its subject and virtually guarantees Christmas (or any time) cookie-making success.

You’ll enjoy baking from Rose’s Christmas Cookies, no matter whether you’re a novice baker or an old hand at cookie baking.